Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: asking whether or not “social media” is important is almost meaningless. “Social media” means Facebook and Twitter, but it also means Orkut and Zivity and Rivals4Ever and a host of incredibly funny niche social sites alike Anderstand (the site for people from Brighton, UK who love salsa!.
What we really want to know is which social networks actually noticeably affect your SEO. The answers are surprising…ly predictable, though there are a couple of nuggets hidden in here that make it all worth reading.
Facebook Is King…Except…
Let’s not lie — social signals from Facebook are huge. According to Searchmetrics, there are three ‘levels’ of social signal from Facebook. The strongest is a Share, then a Comment, then a Like — but the three are all fairly close together. Searchmetrics puts the numerical values around .35, .31, and .28 respectively — so a “mere” Like is still worth 80% of a “great” Share. Obviously, Facebook has a great impact on your Search Engine Results Page (SERP) rankings…but for two exceptions. First, Google+ — but more on that later. Second, and this applies to all social signals, the rankings boost you get from them only lasts for about a week. After that, if you’re not gathering some decent backlinks from authoritative websites in your niche, it all fades.
Twitter Is Prince…But…
Compared to the .28 from a Facebook like, a mention on Twitter is worth (still according to the same Searchmetrics report) .24 of….something. The important part is that the numbers are relative to each other, so a Tweet is worth 68% of a Share. My thoughts are that Retweets are probably fairly significantly discounted, but no one that I know has studied the issue. (To compare, the same study puts the value of having a keyword in your domain name as only .11 — less than half the value of a single Tweet mentioning a particular page.) There’s still that whole Google+ thing, though…
Google Plus Is Emperor Of Social Signals
.41 — that’s the impact of a single Google+ share according to the same scale. “After Page Authority, a URL’s number of Google +1s is more highly correlated with search rankings than any other factor,” Moz says.
Why is Google+ so powerful among social signals? Well, the cynic in me says it’s because they want Google+ to be important, since, you know, they’re Google. But Moz seems to think that it’s not because Google is bending any rules, but simply because Google+ is made from the ground up to be SEO-relevant. The way that Google+ stores, arranges, correlates, and displays posts are all made — by the people who make the algorithm — to appeal to the algorithm.
The long and short of it is this: if you get powerful social signals early on, any piece of content can get boosted onto the upper echelons of the SERPs. Granted, if you can’t gather some decent backlinks within the first week or so, you won’t stay there — but that’s a different article.